SEATTLE, Wash. - It was one of those heart-stopping moments on the water in Seattle as the U-21 caught fire during Heat 2-B.
As the fire burned, driver Kevin Aylesworth managed to pop the hood and drag himself out of the cockpit. He crawled to the front of the boat. As the fire spread, he was forced to go into the water.
Aylesworth told KIRO-TV he hurt his leg. "Banged it on the way out pretty good," he said. "It was warm in there... got hot pretty fast."
Hydroplanes carry some 50-60 gallons of diesel fuel and hot fuel in the wrong place can lead to fire. The fiberglass ripped through the boat. Rescue crews came to grab Aylesworth and pulled him into the boat. A Seattle fireboat came ot the scene and foamed down the boat. Even with the foam, the boat continued to burn for several minutes.
Owner Jeffrey Michael Johnson said the damage to the hull is so severe it is unknown if the hometown favorite will be ready to compete at the Thunderboat Regatta on Mission Bay September 15-17. "We'll have to get it back to the shop to assess the extent of the damage," Johnson said. Initial reports indicated the decks of the boat, engine compartment, and electrical components all need replacing. The turbine engine is damaged, but Johnson is hoping it can be repaired.